25 October 2021, Monday, 20:54
Sim Sim, Charter 97!

Representatives of the Belarusian Theater Called for Help to Actors Who Spoke in Support of Change

Representatives of the Belarusian Theater Called for Help to Actors Who Spoke in Support of Change
Photo: Nasha Niva

Today they are deprived of the opportunity to work in their profession.

Independent theater workers of Belarus appealed to the world community for help. Leading British theater critic Dominic Cavendish released this appeal with the following comment:

- The Belarusian theater community is asking its British colleagues for urgent help to continue working and survive in the current period of horrific state repression.

The website Charter97.org publishes the text of the appeal of the representatives of the Belarusian theater:

- Representatives of the Belarusian theater, who spoke out against the lawlessness and violence of the authorities after the presidential elections in August 2020, appeal to colleagues and specialized institutions from other countries for help, since they were virtually deprived of the opportunity to work in their profession.

The hardest political crisis in Belarus came in the summer of 2020, when the country’s civil society reacted with mass protests over disputed presidential elections and open violence from the authorities, moved into a phase of sustained and harsh repression. Representatives of different classes and professional communities: workers, doctors, scholars, sportspeople, and not least cultural workers – have been subjected to unprecedented reprisals for expressing their civic position. Detentions (with recorded cases of beatings), dismissals for political reasons followed by a ban on employment, the closure of cultural venues in various cities of the country, often unpredictable submission of art to censorship, the reduction of legal methods of foreign funding – and this is not a complete list of measures used by the authorities against creators, cultural managers and entrepreneurs.

Representatives of the theatre, who publicly expressed their support for democratic transformations in Belarus, due to their pronounced infrastructural dependence on the state, faced a de facto ban on the profession. According to the Belarusian PEN Center, at the beginning of February 2021 in Belarus there were at least 103 theatre workers who were dismissed and resigned in protest. There have been 31 cases of unreasonable detention of theatre workers, and many have fled abroad because of fears for their freedom (which in itself is critical for the existence of the theatre community in Belarus). Independent theatre groups cannot present their performances, since any entry into the public arena can be regarded as undesirable by the authorities, suppressed or punished. The activities of the entire spectrum of theatrical professions are paralyzed: from critics, theatre managers, stage workers to actors and directors.

Representatives of both the independent and the state theatre of Belarus, equally affected by political repression, appeal to foreign cultural organizations, professional associations, foundations with a request to pay attention to the current situation and provide all possible assistance both in individual and group cooperation.

A group of theatre professionals, having studied specific requests from colleagues, formulated a number of possible formats for (mutual) assistance:

– residences for collective or individual participation – necessary for both creative work and rehabilitation for playwrights, directors, actors, set designers, critics, managers;

– opportunities for individual cooperation with foreign theatres: internships, training, exchange of experience, workshops;

– co-organization of conferences (online or offline), revealing the issues of the existence and development of contemporary Belarusian theatre with the subsequent publication of a collection of articles and/or a collective monograph;

– conducting educational (workshops, lectures, etc.) and other events with the participation of both Belarusian and foreign experts;

– other grant projects with a partner organization capable of conducting financial activities from the outside: paying for the venue, the work of artists, etc ;

– searching for safe formats within which theatre can exist: video, media, synthesis with other types of arts, the use of non-conventional venues.

“We are tired of the absurdity, pressure, and impending danger in which we have to survive, although what is happening has already made the theatrical community in Belarus more united and made it possible to re-evaluate the scale of the projects implemented before the crisis period. We want to continue our work and cannot allow the authorities to destroy what was created not by them, but often in spite of them,” as they say in the Appeal.

If you have opportunities and other ideas, useful contacts, and information, you can contact the theatre community volunteers by email: [email protected]